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Introduction (Booking, Equipment, Configuration)
I booked the flight with 67,500 United MileagePlus miles less than 3 days out. united.com showed plenty of availability for A380/747-800 flights to the US West Coast but none was bookable or showed on the ANA tool. Only the YVR flight was bookable out of all West Coast destinations in that week.
This would be my 6th Lufthansa First Class flight and I had a good idea what I could expect. The Airbus A340 was the old First Class configuration (as almost all A340/A330) are out of Frankfurt which are not reconfigured yet.
The aircraft was docked to gate C14 which allowed our friendly driver to give us a full tour of the FRA airport from the Porsche Cayenne cockpit. Since many Lufthansa flights now leave from the Z gates the ride from the First Class Terminals is often cut short.
The flight attendants extended a warm welcome once we set foot into the plane.
The equipment is aging nicely – the plane was spotless. As usual 4 of 8 seats were taken. It seems Lufthansa leaves 4 seats for sales to last-minute paying customers. So far I have never seen a full Lufthansa cabin (but plenty of United International First).
This purser also introduced herself before takeoff.
Seat (Space, Adjustability)
You all know the old 'dinosaur' seat. It's good our lounging but not much else.
IFE (User Interface, Movie selection, moving map)
I really tried to use it this time with an open mind but this system really needs to go. The screen size is a joke, the touch screen never works, there are just a few movies and TV shows. This system really is 25 years old at its heart. Many carriers have better IFE systems in long-haul Economy compared to what Lufthansa has in its First Class.
I did use FlyNet again and found it to be pretty reliable. Downloads are speedy (1.1Mbit) though uploads and ping times are really slow.
Food (Presentation, Taste, Selection)
Given the food bonanza I enjoyed a couple of hours earlier I wasn't too hungry. This proved to be a good 'investment'. There are many reports about Lufthansa's food as too complicated and not fresh enough. This is especially true for flights out of Frankfurt.
There were many dishes as you can see below but I only liked the caviar without reservations. Everything else ranged from barely edible to weird to ok. The presentation was really good and the food looked good (though not fresh) but was disappointing and sometimes weird in taste.
The ice cream and cheese deserts were pretty good though.
Lufthansa has made some recent changes to the on board service. The bread basket has become more diverse (and better). The salt and pepper grinders have been introduced and the silverware looks more modern. The appetizers are also now presented on one plate.
So while I still think Lufthansa's food is special – its not awesome in taste out of Frankfurt.
Service (Friendliness, Responsiveness)
The flight attendants were really trying hard. My initial impression was really positive. The flight attendants really cared about the passengers well being.
One thing that I find annoying is the sloooow food service. Only one flight attendant for four passengers and she really takes her time. I'm not sure if that is driven by the kitchen speed or hers but 3.5 hours from takeoff to main course is way too long. It's 3.5 hrs with food items on your table – that's too much.
The service began to break down with the second service. Lufthansa serves a 3 course meal just before landing. It's a pretty generous meal and much better than the breakfast type meals many airlines do before landing. The flight attendants only started service less than 60 minutes before landing. They brought out an appetizer and left teh cabin for about 10-15 minutes. Only later they appeared with the main course (which was probably the best item of the flight). There was quite intense turbulence going over the Cascades and it took another 10 minutes before the dessert was served. Until my table was cleared it was well past the no electronics, seats upright announcement. I was still in my pyjamas though.
For transatlantic flights with service to the West Coast options are limited. It's either United, Lufthansa or Air Canada. Air Canada rarely release business class seats on teh route.
For daytime flights Lufthansa still beats United by a wide margin. The First Class Terminal puts you into a fantastic food coma and the great service and nicely looking food make the flight feel very special.
United excels at grumpy service, inedible food and not trying not to make you feel special. However the seats are really good and you can get a full nights sleep in those seats easily. Even if you can't sleep the excellent IFE doubles as a mini movie theater.
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